Tommy's PregnancyHub

Feeding your baby after birth with type 1 or 2 diabetes

Babies of women who have diabetes sometimes experience low glucose levels after they are born. Regular feeding shortly after birth can help keep them stable.

You should start feeding your baby as soon as possible after birth (within 30 minutes), and then every 2 to 3 hours, to help their glucose stay at a safe level. 

Formula feeding

Some women have difficulty breastfeeding or are unable to and others may choose not to. Whatever your reasons, you shouldn’t feel, or be made to feel, guilty or pressured about your decision to use formula. Your baby needs you to stay healthy and happy, not stressed or worried about using formula. 

Breastfeeding

Benefits for your baby

Breastfeeding has long-term health benefits for your baby that last right into adulthood. It can reduce the risk of infections and improve their long-term health.  

Research shows that breastfed babies of mothers who have diabetes are also less likely to develop diabetes in childhood than those who are formula fed. 

Benefits for you

Breastfeeding lowers your risk of:

  • various cancers including breast and ovarian
  • osteoporosis (weak bomes)
  • cardiovascular disease (heart problems)
  • obesity. 

Check with your healthcare team that any medications you’re taking are safe to take while you’re breastfeeding first.

Colostrum 

Colostrum is the first breast milk that your body makes. This is very thick and yellow, and it contains all the nutrients your baby needs in the first few days after birth. Because their stomach is so small, your baby will only need a small amount.

If you were able to collect colostrum in the third trimester, this can be used to help stabilise your baby's glucose levels. Your midwifery team can help you do this. When your baby is born, they may have difficulties breastfeeding and maintaining their glucose levels. If your baby needs extra feeds, you can use colostrum instead of formula milk.

“Expressing and storing colostrum in the weeks leading up to birth helped me feel empowered and proactive. My stored colostrum was invaluable when baby was mildly hypo for 24 hrs after birth.”

Zoe

When your milk comes in

Your milk ‘comes in’ after about 3 days and you’ll notice that your breasts get much fuller. The amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on your baby’s needs. It can take a few days for your milk supply to match these needs.

Keeping your glucose levels stable

It’s important to monitor your glucose levels regularly when you’re breastfeeding. If your glucose levels are too low, you could have a hypoglycaemic episode while you’re feeding.

These tips can help you keep your diabetes under control while you breastfeed.

  • Test your glucose levels before each feed. You are more likely to have a hypoglycaemic episode if you start breastfeeding when you have low glucose levels or if feeds go on for a long time. Aim for a glucose level 6mmol/L or more before you start feeding.
  • Always have a snack handy when you are breastfeeding and remember to increase your supper snack to cover your baby’s night-time feed. Aim for a glucose level between 6mmol/L and 8mmol/L or more before bed.
  • Many mums feel naturally thirsty when they are breastfeeding their babies. By monitoring your glucose levels, you will be able to tell whether what you are feeling is a natural thirst or a thirst caused by a hyperglycaemic episode. 
  • Be careful if you are feeling tired while you are feeding your baby, especially at night. You could miss the early warning signs of a hypoglycaemic episode. 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet while you’re breastfeeding because your body needs calories for energy.  

Babies often feed more frequently when they are going through a development phase. Make sure you monitor your glucose levels regularly and get advice from your diabetes team if your insulin regime needs adjusting.

Getting support

If you want to speak to someone between appointments with your health visitor, you should be able to find details of local support in your baby’s red book. This is your personal child health record, where all your child’s health and development reviews are recorded.

Your red book should also contact details of local breastfeeding drop-ins, cafes and centres. Find out more about breastfeeding, including details of support organisations

NICE (2015). Diabetes in pregnancy: management from preconception to the postnatal period. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng3

Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson, Mayes’ Midwifery. Edinburgh: Baillir̈e Tindall Elsevier, 2017), p.765-767

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. Breastfeeding for mothers with pre-existing diabetes (Last reviewed: August 2017 Next review due: August 2021)

NHS. Benefits of breastfeeding. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/breastfeeding/benefits/ (Page last reviewed: 11 March 2020 Next review due: 2023)

Review dates
Last reviewed: 20 July 2020
Next review: 20 July 2023